Temporal range: Early Miocene to present
White Stork-Mindaugas Urbonas-1.jpg
Fledgling (left) and adult
European white stork (Ciconia ciconia ciconia)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Ciconiiformes
Family: Ciconiidae
Genus: Ciconia
Brisson, 1760
Type species
Ardea ciconia
Linnaeus, 1758

Ciconia abdimii
Ciconia boyciana
Ciconia ciconia
Ciconia episcopus
Ciconia maguari
Ciconia nigra
Ciconia stormi





Woolly-necked stork Ciconia episcopus

Ciconia (/sɪˈə/ sih-KOH-nee-uh; Classical Latin[kiˈkoː.ni.a]) is a genus of birds in the stork family. Six of the seven living species occur in the Old World, but the maguari stork has a South American range. In addition, fossils suggest that Ciconia storks were somewhat more common in the tropical Americas in prehistoric times.

The genus was introduced by the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760 with the white stork (Ciconia ciconia) as the type species.[1][2] The genus name is the Latin word for "stork",[3] and was originally recorded in the works of Horace and Ovid.[4]

These are large storks, typically 100 cm tall, with a 180 cm wingspan and a long thick bill. Members of this genus are more variable in plumage than other storks, but several species have black upper bodies and wings, and white belly and undertail. Juveniles are a duller, browner version of the adult.

Ciconia storks are gregarious and colonial breeders, and pairs stay together for life. They typically build large stick nests in trees, although the maguari stork will nest on the ground and at least three species will construct their nests on human habitations. One of these, the white stork, is probably the best known of all storks, with a wealth of legend and folklore associated with this familiar visitor to Europe.

These storks feed on frogs, insects, young birds, lizards and rodents. They fly with the neck outstretched, like most other storks, but unlike herons which retract their neck in flight.

The migratory species like the white stork and the black stork soar on broad wings and rely on thermals of hot air for sustained long distance flight. Since thermals only form over land, these storks, like large raptors, must cross the Mediterranean at the narrowest points, and many of these birds can be seen going through the Straits of Gibraltar and the Bosphorus on migration.


Extant species

The genus contains seven extant species:[5]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Abdim's Stork (Ciconia abdimii) (7011390701).jpg Ciconia abdimii Abdim's stork Eastern Africa, from Ethiopia south to South Africa
Wooly necked stork David Raju.jpg Ciconia episcopus Woolly-necked stork Asia, from India to Indonesia, and in tropical Africa
Storm's Stork (14154610322).jpg Ciconia stormi Storm's stork Borneo; occurring in Kalimantan (Indonesia), Serawak, Sabah (Malaysia) and Brunei
Maguari.jpg Ciconia maguari Maguari stork Venezuela and eastern Colombia; Guyana; eastern Bolivia; Paraguay; Brazil
Ciconia boyciana (male).JPG Ciconia boyciana Oriental stork Japan, China, Korea and Russia
White Stork RWD.jpg Ciconia ciconia White stork Europe, clustered in the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa
Kara leylek.jpg Ciconia nigra Black stork Eastern Asia (Siberia and northern China) west to Central Europe, reaching Estonia in the north, Poland, Lower Saxony and Bavaria in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Greece in the south


The fossil record of the genus is extensive, indicating that Ciconia storks were once more widespread than they are today. Although the known material tends to suggest that the genus evolved around the Atlantic, possibly in western Europe or Africa, the comparative lack of fossil sites in Asia makes this assumption not well-founded presently. All that can be said is that by the Early Pliocene, Ciconia was widespread at least all over the Northern Hemisphere.

Fossil members of the genus include:

  • Ciconia louisebolesae (Early Miocene of Riversleigh, Australia)
  • ?Ciconia minor (Early Miocene of Rusinga Island, Kenya)
  • ?Ciconia sarmatica (Late Miocene of Credinţa, Romania)
  • ?Ciconia gaudryi (Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of Pikermi, Greece)
  • Ciconia sp. 1 (Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of Lee Creek Mine, the United States)
  • Ciconia sp. 2 (Late Miocene/Early Pliocene of Lee Creek Mine, the United States)
  • ?Ciconia kahli (Early Pliocene of South Africa)
  • Ciconia lucida (Mongolian stork), (Middle Pliocene of Mongolia)
  • Ciconia maltha (asphalt stork or La Brea stork), (Late Pliocene – Late Pleistocene of the western and southern United States, Cuba and Bolivia)
  • Ciconia stehlini (Late Pliocene – Early Pleistocene of Hungary) – may belong to extant species
  • Ciconia nana (Australian stork) – (Early to Middle Pliocene, Late Pleistocene of Australia) – formerly Xenorhynchus[6]
  • Ciconia sp. (Late Pleistocene/Early Holocene of Las Breas de San Felipe, Cuba)[7]

A distal radius in Late Pleistocene deposits of San Josecito Cavern (Mexico) may belong in this genus or in Mycteria; it is smaller than that of any known American stork, Ciconia or otherwise.[8] The proposed fossil genus Prociconia from Brazil, also of Late Pleistocene age, may be a junior synonym of either this genus or Jabiru. A distal tarsometatarsus found in a rock shelter on Réunion was probably of a bird taken there as food by early settlers; no known account mentions the presence of storks on the Mascarenes, and while this subfossil was initially believed to be from a stork, it is today assigned to the Réunion ibis (Threskiornis solitarius) which is quite similar to storks osteologically and was not yet described when the bone was discovered (Cowles, 1994).


  1. ^ Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode Contenant la Division des Oiseaux en Ordres, Sections, Genres, Especes & leurs Variétés (in French and Latin). Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. Vol. 1, p. 48, Vol. 5, p. 361.
  2. ^ Mayr, Ernst; Cottrell, G. William, eds. (1979). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 1 (2nd ed.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 247. |volume= has extra text (help)
  3. ^ Lewis, Charlton Thomas; Kingery, Hugh Macmaster (1918). An Elementary Latin Dictionary. New York: American Book Company. p. 126. ISBN 0-19-910205-8.
  4. ^ Simpson, D.P. (1979). Cassell's Latin Dictionary (5th ed.). London: Cassell Ltd. p. 103. ISBN 0-304-52257-0.
  5. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2019). "Storks, ibis, herons". World Bird List Version 9.1. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Boles. W 2005 A Review of the Australian Fossil Storks of the Genus Ciconia (Aves: Ciconiidae), With the Description of a New Species" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2010-05-21.
  7. ^ MNHNCu P4599, a distal right tibiotarsus of a mid-sized species, about the size of the White Stork: Suarez, William; Olson, Storrs L. (2003). "New Records of Storks (Ciconiidae) from Quaternary Asphalt Deposits in Cuba". The Condor. 105: 150. doi:10.1650/0010-5422(2003)105[150:NROSCF]2.0.CO;2. hdl:10088/1553. JSTOR 1370615.
  8. ^ Steadman, David W.; Arroyo-Cabrales, Joaquin; Johnson, Eileen; Guzman, A. Fabiola (1994). "New Information on the Late Pleistocene Birds from San Josecito Cave, Nuevo León, Mexico" (PDF). Condor. 96 (3): 577–589. doi:10.2307/1369460.

Further reading

  • Barlow, Clive (1997): A field guide to birds of the Gambia and Senegal. Pica Press, Nr. Robertsbridge (East Sussex). ISBN 1-873403-32-1
  • Cowles, Graham S. (1994): A new genus, three new species and two new records of extinct Holocene birds from Réunion Island, Indian Ocean. Geobios 27(1): 87–93.
  • Grimmett, Richard; Inskipp, Carol, Inskipp, Tim & Byers, Clive (1999): Birds of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.. ISBN 0-691-04910-6
  • Hilty, Steven L. (2003): Birds of Venezuela. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-6418-5

External links

  • ARKive: images and movies of Ciconia boyciana
  • Ciconia videos on Internet Bird Collection:
  • Ecological education through live white storks' nest webcam observation